Friday, July 28, 2006


Factlet of the Day

Britain locks up more people per capita than Saudi Arabia, China, or Burma (Myanmar). (It's still well below the US, however, with 145 prisoners per 100,000 people ..., compared to 738 prisoners in the US.) And it has more "lifers" than the rest of Western Europe put together. —Mark Rice-Oxley in "'Revolving door' crowds British prisons with repeat offenders"


Thursday, July 27, 2006


Stupid Law of the Day

The Euclid [Ohio] city council has passed a law making it illegal to cover windows with blankets, garbage bags, newspaper or other unsightly items in place of curtains.
Violators will receive warnings and could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Here's the good news—

Law Director Chris Frey said he could not find a similar ordinance to use as a model.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Headline of the Day

Five 'killed' in Gaza shellingBBC

Notice the quotation marks. Quotation marks have two basic uses. The first, as indicated by the name, is to mark off the exact words of a speaker or of a text. The second use is to indicate that the word or words in quotation marks carries some special or metaphorical meaning.

To illustrate this second use, someone might write that "Jon Stewart 'killed' the audience last night," and you would understand that he didn't actually exterminate them. It can also be illustrated by the text of the article cited—

Mr Obeid said he was being "tortured" by living in a building in "the direct line of fire" of Israeli artillery.

We all know that being shelled by Israeli artillery is not actually "torture," as defined by the Bush administration, but is a somewhat exaggerated metaphor for "discomfitted." Not a drop of vital bodily fluid was spilt. As for being in "the direct line of fire," that is merely Mr. Obeid's opinion and illustrates the first use of quotation marks.

The first use also occurs frequently in U.S. headlines whenever an accusation is made against the U.S. military. You will usually see the words "rape," "torture," or "murder"—depending upon the atrocity—in quotation marks. The implication is that the act may or may not have occurred, that someone is being quoted and that the publication in no way wishes to assert that the allegation is in fact true. This is a technique to avoid being accused of prejudgment or, worse, disloyalty to one's country.

But I confess that I've never seen "killed" put in quotation marks, especially when the story asserts that the killing did indeed take place.

Three people were killed when a shell hit a crowd outside a block of flats near the Israeli border.

Later, a shell exploded in an area of open ground to the town's west, killing a 14-year-old boy and his grandmother.

The headline is also a bit timid as to who did the killing. You have to read the article to learn that it was the Israeli military. I mean, the headline writer might at least have written "Israel 'killed' five Gazans" and leave it for us to guess whether the event actually occurred.

Is this a new editorial policy at the BBC? That Palestinians are "killed" but Israelis killed?

It is much worse actually to be killed than merely to be "killed." Being "killed" leaves some room for maneuver.

I get the impression that the Israelis really are "taking it on the chin," don't you?



Global Warming Effect of the Day

Spain's oldest nuclear power station - the Santa Maria de Garona plant - was shut down on Sunday because the Ebro river water became too hot to cool its reactor. —BBC in "France seeks medics for heatwave"


Monday, July 24, 2006


Quote of the Day

[F]undamentalism in the Southern Baptist form is incompatible with higher education. In fundamentalism, you have all the truths. In education, you’re searching for truths. —David W. Key, director of Baptist Studies at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, as quoted by Alan Finder in "Feeling strains, Baptist colleges cut church ties"



Factlet of the Day

700 new acts have been defined as criminal since Labour took power in 1997. —Mark Rice-Oxley in "'Revolving door' crowds British prisons with repeat offenders"

That's quite a "crime wave" for the British. I hate to think how many crimes have been invented in the U.S. over the same period. If you're still breathing you can be sure that you're breaking some law or another.


Sunday, July 23, 2006


I told you so...

White House Shifts Tack on Tribunals: Bush to Propose Only Minor Changes

[M]any Republicans -- and some Democrats -- believe court-martial rules would afford too much protection to terrorism suspects, allowing them to use the tribunals to access classified information, communicate with terrorist leaders, and delay a verdict and sentencing indefinitely.

When arrestees are simply declared to be guilty, it greatly simplifies the administration of justice.

Previous posts
Guantánamo: "The cleanest place we're holding people" (6/30/06)
Parsing the Pentagon's Geneva Conventions turnaround (7/11/06)


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